Friday, July 21, 2017

“How Shall I Make a Return to the Lord?” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Although Moses and Aaron performed various wonders in Pharaoh’s presence, the Lord made Pharaoh obstinate, and he would not let the children of Israel leave his land. (God gives his people instructions for the preparation of the Passover lamb and the marking of their lintels with the blood.)  “This is how you are to eat it:  with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight.  It is the Passover of the Lord.”   (Exodus 11:10, 12:11)

Jesus was going through a field of grain on the Sabbath.  His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them.  When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the Sabbath.”  (Jesus responded:) If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men.”  (Matthew 12:1-2, 7)

How shall I make a return to the Lord
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the Lord.  (Psalm 116:12-13)

Nine plagues have been visited upon Egypt in an effort to persuade Pharaoh to let the Hebrew people leave.  As awful as each one has been, none of them has persuaded the Egyptian ruler to release these slaves.  In today’s first reading, God is determined, however, that this final plague will mark the passing over of his people from slavery to freedom.

God works relentlessly every day to free us from what enslaves us, namely sin.  Consider how often we find ourselves confessing the same sins over and over.  Despite the best of intentions, we’ve argued with our spouse and said something hurtful again.  We’ve broken our promise once more to spend time with our children, putting in more hours at work instead.  We’ve indulged in another angry outburst against someone or tightened our grip on the grudge we’re holding toward another.  Face-to-face with a hungry, homeless person, we, who’ve been to Starbucks every day all week, think to ourselves, “Why doesn’t he/she get a job?” and turn away.  Enticed by the pleasures of our backyard grill and hammock, another weekend has gone by without us darkening the doors of our church or spending any time in prayer.

God seeks to free us from our sins and hopes we will respond.  Beyond that, as we see in today’s Gospel lesson, God is merciful and compassionate when it comes to human needs. 

So, what is our response to God’s love for us?  The Hebrew people in the first reading, freed from Egyptian captivity, chose to grumble and complain all the way from Egypt to the Promised Land.  What is our response to God’s saving love?  What return will we make to the Lord for all the good he has done for us?

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